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Closing Out Replies

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally published on Oct 17, 2006. It is being republished as Steve is at SQLBits 9 today.

I've been posting on the Internet for nearly 17 years, from back in the days of Usenet, GOPHER, ARCHIE and FTP when everything was text. I've asked questions and answered them on various topics and as the World Wide Web grew, I grew with it, moving to BrainBench and various other sites where I could gett and provide answers. Recently some one sent me this definition for Warnock's Dilemma, which was timely considering the today's article on posting manners, which I received about the same time. I thought it was interesting wanted to bring it to people's attention.

Early on when I'd post a question, I got an answer, but then I wondered if it was good information. I could usually test it myself, but since I wasn't sure of how to solve it on my own (hence the post), I wondered if there was a better way to solve it. Ideally I'd get 2-3 responses, maybe even some improving or commenting on others, to help me sort things out.

If I didn't get a response, then I wondered if I hadn't phrased things correctly, or no one else knew, or even that no one bothered to read my post. All of these are valid interpretations and the new definition from Wikipedia pointing out that a lack of response doesn't necessarily mean anything. There are 5 possible interpretations of this.

When we started SQLServerCentral.com, our goal was to answer every single post. The three of us (and three others at the time) would research questions and make it a point to answer in some way, some type of post. As we grew, we encountered areas, such as MDX, where none of us had any expertise and couldn't even understand the research sometimes, much less the question. To facilitate getting responses, you have probably noticed that we add an automatic post to some threads if they haven't seen a response in a day or two. This is to bring them back to the top of the list and hopefully someone else's attention.

The other thing we debated on with answered posts was whether one answer was sufficient. Often one of us would come on a thread that someone else had answered and we liked the solution, but there was no closing "thanks" or "that worked". So we decided that adding another post that agrees with the solution, a "me too" post, was a good idea. That way we hoped that we'd build some confidence in the solutions we believed in and give the newbies out there a reason to follow the advice.

I'm really not sure what the best way to handle posts on the Internet. We've been asked to allow people to "rate" solutions as well as "close" threads. We've resisted because we see various issues with all of those solutions, just as with the thread within a thread capabilities of many forums. We've opted for a simpler solution that we think works well and we hope you agree.

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Steve Jones
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Steve Jones